“I DON’T NEED THERAPY FROM A DOG!” I guess the man who’d indicated in the morning that he wanted a visit with Misty had forgotten that by the time we made it to the floor.
In fact, it was the evening before the full moon. I know. I know. It’s just an Old Wives’ Tale. An Urban Myth. A load of hooey, that when there’s a full moon, human restlessness increases, as do visits to Emergency Rooms and more women deliver their babies — but how otherwise to explain some of the events on the Palliative Care Unit that evening?
Misty and I heard our first Code Yellow – meaning a patient from the PCU
had gone missing from the floor. The hospital’s public address system bleated a
description of the person and happily, she was returned quickly and none the
worse for her time a-wandering.
The Empress of Cheerios was feeling somewhat worse -- for the first time
too tired to sit up for a visit. Nonetheless, she smiled wanly as I placed some
tantalizing pumpkin-cranberry seasonal dog snacks in her hand. She held them
out, one at a time, for an obliging Misty to nibble. When I asked whether her
Granddaughter had been by for a visit, I could see it was the wrong question.
She shook her head silently. Visit soon over.
We passed the room where, in past weeks, we had visited the man who had
found it harder and harder to breathe. He had wanted Misty to remain with him
and wept when she tenderly licked his cooling hands. I felt a twinge to be
passing by that room, not steering into it, and wondered whether Misty also
perceived the man’s absence.
Does anything of the person, any clue, scent, affected cell, any fragment that bears witness to the person’s struggle or passing remain with those walls? The furniture? The blankets that rose and fell with each laboured respiration? How absent is absence really? In any event, I recalled his earlier smiles and his delight in greeting Misty and had no doubt that Misty recalled, as well.
A new man had arrived. He was very sick – couldn’t verbalize beyond short moaning sounds but he seemed alert and even nervous. His arms were clamped, mummy-like around his body. As soon as his wife saw Misty she veered over to us with a broad smile and bent over to offer a body hug and accept Misty’s kisses. “Oh please come see my husband! Look, Dear. This beautiful dog has come to see you!” She turned to me, beaming. “He’s happy, look!”
Honestly, I could detect no change in the man sitting up in the bed but was pleased that Wife was getting on so well with Misty. Then she abruptly patted the bed beside her husband and said, “Come up! Come here!”
Misty moved quickly, but so did I – as she popped her front paws on the bed, I reached around to cup her paws and ensure she didn’t inadvertently touch or scratch the man. Then the licking started, first his arm, then his face.
“Oh, not the face!” Wife giggled. “Look, he’s so happy!” Misty licked his face again and Wife looked at me and shrugged. As Misty stepped back down, her work complete for now, Wife said, “Thank you so much for coming. It’s so good to see him
Honestly, I still could detect no change in the man. We turned to face the other man in the room.
“Hey, it’s Misty!” The Party Guy’s family and cheering section were there, razzing him as usual... but something was definitely different – for the first time, we were seeing him up in a chair. How wonderful that his condition had improved somewhat – but even better to watch P.Guy and his family share this humble triumph ... so poignant to observe them savouring the elemental Joy of the Moment ... (and coincidentally so much more convenient for Misty to accept the snacks out of his hand!) All that wise cracking and tail wagging put me in mind of something Maya Angelou once said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We left the room and when I stopped to use the hand sanitizer beside the door, Misty stepped back to look into the room. She seemed transfixed with something back inside. I watched her as she remained intently focused, wondering what it was that she was detecting that was completely unknown to me. “C’ mon, Girl.” I jiggled the leash and she seemed a little startled. Then her sweet smile returned and off we went again.
“NO DOG! NO DOG!” A rerun of last week. As soon as we entered into the room of the young man who had asked for a visit, he seemed alarmed with our presence despite the attempts of his family to settle him. A photo of the man, smiling with his own dog, hung near his bed -- witness to a time when his human/animal bond was less complex. Misty attended to his wife who seemed anxious to both hug her and release her.
Back in the hallway, a now familiar phenomenum played out: a smiling couple of visitors were headed in one direction until they saw Misty, then they changed direction to close in on us.“Oooooo! Can we pat your dog?”
“Well, that’s her job description.”
“She’s so beautiful.”
And then, another familiar phenomenum: they started to talk about their own beloved dog. The man said, “We used to have a beautiful German Shepherd but we had to have him put down last year.” He knelt down and hugged this little Golden. Misty responded with her loving kindnesses. The man looked up, teary-eyed. “I needed some healing. Thank you.”
Interesting job description, indeed, Misty: to just love people. Just love ‘em.